July 12, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – July 12, 2019
2020 Democrats Vow to Get Tough on Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/7/2019
Democratic presidential hopefuls are taking aim at the lobbying world, vowing to enact sweeping reform proposals if they win election. Contenders from both parties have long run as outsiders to K Street, with President Trump famously vowing on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp.” But the spotlight on K Street has intensified this cycle, with the left urging candidates to reject corporate money and Democratic lawmakers raising concerns about the “revolving door” that sees lobbyists land top administration posts. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bennet have called for a strict lifetime ban on lawmakers lobbying. Those candidates in the U.S. House are touting tough restrictions on lobbyists they helped pass this year as part of a sweeping ethics bill.
AP: Federal grand jury probing GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy
AP News – Jim Mustian and Desmond Butler | Published: 7/8/2019
A federal grand jury in New York is investigating top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, examining whether he used his position as vice chairperson of President Trump’s inaugural committee to drum up business deals with foreign leaders. Prosecutors appear to be investigating whether Broidy exploited his access to Trump for personal gain and violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to offer foreign officials “anything of value” to gain a business advantage. Things of value in this case could have been an invitation to the January 2017 inaugural events or access to Trump.
Appeals Court Tosses Emoluments Suit Against Trump
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/10/2019
A federal appeals court panel dismissed a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and state governments while serving as president. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, who joined together to file the suit, lacked legal standing to object to his alleged violations of the Constitution’s clauses prohibiting receipt of so-called emoluments while in office. Writing for the court, Judge Paul Niemeyer concluded the case turned on unduly speculative claims that the District of Columbia and Maryland governments were being harmed by people favoring Trump’s Washington hotel in order to curry favor with him.
Democrats Grapple with a Sprawling Primary Field, and No One to Shape It
MSN – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2019
Many strategists say the Democratic Party’s slate of 24 presidential candidates is too unwieldy for a constructive debate, and too large for most voters to follow. With a leadership vacuum at the top of the party, there is no one to elevate candidates with an endorsement, or help steer third-tier candidates out of the race when they have reached their plausible expiration date. Former President Obama is sitting out the primary. The Clintons, a once-dominant party presence, are largely unwelcome this time around. Of the party’s living former presidential nominees, just Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis have weighed in on the race. The rest are keeping their distance from the messy primary, which polling shows has bifurcated between a top tier of five candidates and everyone else vying just to qualify for the party’s fall debates.
Elizabeth Warren Shuns Conventional Wisdom for a New Kind of Campaign
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 7/9/2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is defying the traditional playbook for running a modern presidential campaign. She raised $19.1 million in the second quarter of this year despite swearing off large fundraising events. Her campaign has gone without an outside polling firm, and says it has no plans to hire one, even though it is standard operating procedure. The campaign is shunning the typical model for producing campaign ads, in which outside firms are hired and paid commissions for their work. Instead, Warren’s campaign is producing TV, digital, and media content itself, as well as placing its digital ad buys internally. The approach is a rebuke of the consultant-heavy model of campaigns. Warren and her team see the standard campaign as another symbol of Washington corruption, and an opportunity to do things differently.
Eric Swalwell Ends White House Bid, Citing Low Polling, Fundraising
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Jeremy White | Published: 7/8/2019
U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, dogged by fundraising challenges and a failure to register in the polls, is ending his longshot bid for the presidency. He had called on Democratic front-runner Joe Biden to “pass the torch” of party leadership to a new generation in the first Democratic presidential debates. But Swalwell later called a press conference to announce that instead of continuing in the primaries, he will instead seek a fifth term representing his strongly Democratic district in Congress. Consultant Garry South said Swalwell’s attempts at generational appeal “could have had traction, but he was pre-empted by someone a year younger, Pete Buttigieg. He didn’t have that lane to himself.”
FBI Arrests Former Top Puerto Rico Officials in Government Corruption Scandal
National Public Radio – Bobby Allyn | Published: 7/11/2019
U.S. authorities unsealed a corruption indictment against two former top officials in Puerto Rico for directing some $15.5 million in contracts to favored businesses, allegedly edging out other firms for the lucrative government work despite allegations of being unqualified. The two former Puerto Rico leaders – Julia Keleher, who was the secretary of the island’s department of education before stepping down in April, and Ángela Ávila-Marrero, who led Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration until June – were arrested by FBI agents. Prosecutors wrote in the indictment that the conspiracy involved the two former public officials handing four associates who had an inside track to contracts.
Female Tech Lobbyists Shake Up Industry
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/9/2019
Male-dominated Silicon Valley has long faced criticism over gender diversity issues, but in Washington, D.C., the tech industry’s most prominent groups are increasingly led by women. For women in the industry, those changes are a promising trend and long overdue, and come at a critical time for tech businesses. Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer of The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA), first started as a lobbyist at NTCA 30 years ago, when she said it was a “barren wasteland for women in the tech industry.” She left after 20 years for stints at Qwest and Verizon, before returning as chief executive nine years ago. Bloomfield says there is more to be done to improve representation.
GOP at War Over Fundraising
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/10/2019
Tensions over the future of the Republican Party’s grassroots fundraising are reaching a breaking point, with the national party turning to strong-arm tactics to get Republicans behind its new, Donald Trump-endorsed platform for small donors. The Republican National Committee (RNC) is threatening to withhold support from party candidates who refuse to use WinRed, the GOP’s newly established online fundraising tool. And the RNC, along with the party’s Senate and gubernatorial campaign arms, are threatening legal action against a rival donation vehicle. The moves illustrate how Republican leaders are waging a determined campaign to make WinRed the sole provider of its small donor infrastructure and to torpedo any competitors.
In the Aftermath of Khashoggi’s Murder, Saudi Influence Machine Whirs on in Washington
Stamford Advocate – Beth Reinhard, Jonathan O’Connell, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 7/10/2019
Since fall 2018, Washington, D.C. lobbyists and lawyers have reaped millions of dollars for assisting Saudi Arabia as it works to develop nuclear power, buy American-made weapons, and prolong U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen, foreign lobbying records show. Shaped by a sophisticated machine that was built over decades, Saudi support on Capitol Hill has been tested in recent months amid international outrage over the kingdom’s involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death and a war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of civilians. In recent months, some Republicans have joined Democrats in trying to limit U.S. military aid and weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. But with billions of dollars at stake, the powerful defense industry has helped the lobbying corps contain GOP defections.
‘It Can’t Be Worse’: How Republican women are trying to rebuild
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 7/9/2019
As their own election losses poured in, Republicans watched Democratic women make historic gains in 2018 and decided to adopt the Democrats’ strategy for themselves. Those attending the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University said saving Republican women from political extinction was a challenge far bigger than one election cycle. This is because the deeper problem is that Democratic women have a bench; Republican women do not. Part of the trouble is demographic. There are just more Democratic than Republican women among registered voters, and President Trump, who is less popular among women than among men, has not helped. Republicans also lag strategically in several areas: in recruiting female candidates, training them, funding them, and helping them through primaries.
Judge Blocks Trump Rule Requiring Drug Companies to List Prices in TV Ads
New York Times – Katie Thomas and Katie Rogers | Published: 7/8/2019
A federal judge ruled the Trump administration cannot force pharmaceutical companies to disclose the list price of their drugs in television ads, dealing a blow to one of the president’s most visible efforts to pressure drug companies to lower their prices. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta ruled the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its regulatory authority by seeking to require all drug makers to include in their television commercials the list price of any drug that costs more than $35 a month.
Rep. Duncan Hunter’s ‘Deep State’ Defense Falls Apart
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 7/8/2019
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter’s bid to dismiss the corruption charges against him by alleging a “deep state” conspiracy by U.S. attorneys fell apart when it was revealed that Hunter’s lead attorney had attended the same Democratic fundraiser that he said biased prosecutors. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Whelan ruled against a motion filed by Hunter’s team, arguing the case should be relocated or dismissed because two of the prosecutors attended a 2015 fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, who was running for president. Their attendance, Hunter’s lawyers said, meant they would be biased in the case against Hunter, an early supporter of Donald Trump. The Justice Department revealed that the lead attorney for Hunter’s defense, Gregory Vega, was also present, and even donated to her campaign.
Steve Bullock Hates ‘Dark Money.’ But a Lobbyist for ‘Dark Money’ Donors Is Helping His Campaign.
Center for Public Integrity – Laura Zornosa | Published: 7/8/2019
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is staking his presidential campaign on battling “dark money.” But in August, Bullock is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., for a closed-door campaign fundraiser co-hosted by 11 of the capital’s, including a federally registered lobbyist whose clients have contributed corporate cash to groups that do not disclose their donors, according to an invitation. Jay Driscoll, a Bullock friend and managing partner at lobbying firm Forbes-Tate, lobbied for 37 corporate clients during the first quarter of 2019 alone. The Center for Public Integrity in 2014 found nine of Driscoll’s current corporate lobbying clients had contributed to politically active nonprofit groups that do not voluntarily disclose their donors.
Study: Firm governance key as shareholders assess risk of political activity
Phys.org; Staff – | Published: 7/9/2019
It is the structure of a firm’s governance that may cause shareholders to walk away if they think they cannot hold the company accountable for its political activity, according to a new study. The research provides empirical evidence to inform the debate surrounding whether companies should be required to disclose details of their investments in political activities as a means of increasing accountability to both shareholders and the public. “The study clearly presents the various ways that U.S. companies can influence the political process via campaign finance and what risk it presents to the average investor because of the lack of transparency over the amounts spent,” said the study’s co-author, Hollis Skaife, an accounting professor at the University of California.
Trump Campaign Knew Consultant Was Behind Joe Biden Parody Site. Does That Make It a Campaign Finance Violation
Newsweek – Asher Stockler | Published: 7/9/2019
Multiple members of President Trump’s re-election campaign knew one of their colleagues was the creator of the Joe Biden parody site before his identity was disclosed recently, a campaign source familiar with the matter said. The New York Times revealed Trump campaign consultant Patrick Mauldin as the digital guru behind JoeBiden.info, a website “parody” of the Biden campaign that was designed to highlight unfavorable quotes and gaffes from the former vice president. While his campaign activities and his extracurricular activities appear to be separate functions, Mauldin’s dual status as a bona fide campaign worker and off-duty web guru raises the question of potential campaign finance violations.
Trump Can’t Block Critics from His Twitter Account, Appeals Court Rules
MSN – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 7/9/2019
President Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter, a federal appeals court ruled in a case that could affect officials’ communications with the public on social media. Because Trump uses Twitter to conduct government business, he cannot exclude some Americans from reading his posts, and engaging in conversations in the replies to them, because he does not like their views, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled unanimously. The ruling was one of the highest-profile court decisions yet in a growing constellation of cases addressing what the First Amendment means in a time when political expression increasingly takes place online.
Warren and Whitehouse call for investigation into Chamber of Commerce
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/10/2019
U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse are calling for an investigation into whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is properly disclosing lobbying activities. The senators wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House, where entities file lobbying disclosures, asking for a review of the Chamber’s reports to determine if they are in compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The senators reviewed the Chamber’s disclosures from 2008 through the first quarter of 2019 and claim that since the second quarter of 2016, the Chamber has failed to provide information on its affiliated organizations. The LDA requires a coalition or association disclose entities that contribute at least $5,000 a quarter to its lobbying activities and that actively participate in its lobbying activities.
White House Kills Key Drug Pricing Rule to Eliminate Hidden Rebates
Washington Post – Yasmeen Abutaleb | Published: 7/11/2019
The Trump administration pulled one of its key proposals to lower drug prices that would have eliminated rebates to middlemen in Medicare, which President Trump’s top health official had touted as one of the most significant changes to curb medicine costs for consumers. The rule is the second major drug pricing effort to get blocked recently, complicating the administration’s efforts to make lowering prescription medicine costs a key 2020 presidential campaign issue. Drug makers had favored the rule, but it was strongly opposed by pharmacy benefits managers.
Why the Trump White House Is Caught Up in the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal
MSN – Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 7/7/2019
By the time Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier and felon, was arrested recently and charged with sex trafficking, he had been repeatedly accused of pedophilia and sexual abuse for more than a decade. But Epstein, whose acquaintances include two presidents and multiple celebrities, had until then avoided federal prosecution. The case could shed new light not only on the allegations, which span years and countries, but also on the extent to which officials who have been linked to Epstein – including, most notably, President Trump and his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta — knew about or downplayed them.
From the States and Municipalities
California – California Bill Limits Spending by Local Government Groups
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 7/9/2019
A California lawmaker wants to limit how local government associations can spend taxpayer money after two city councilors got into a brawl at a recent seminar put on by one of the groups. Assemblyperson Cristina Garcia’s bill targets groups that lobby on behalf of and hold education events for local governments. It specifically references the California Contract Cities Association, but it would also apply to groups such as the League of California Cities and the Independent Cities Association. The bill would prohibit them from using dues collected from cities for anything other than lobbying or expenses directly related to educational seminars. The groups would have to disclose how they spend their money.
Florida – Florida, the Sunshine State, Is Slow to Adopt Rooftop Solar Power
New York Times – Ivan Penn | Published: 7/7/2019
Florida calls itself the Sunshine State. But when it comes to the use of solar power, it trails 19 states, including not-so-sunny Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland. Solar experts and environmentalists blame the state’s utilities. The utilities have hindered potential rivals seeking to offer residential solar power. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying, ad campaigns, and political contributions. And when homeowners purchase solar equipment, the utilities have delayed connecting the systems for months. In Florida, utilities make money on virtually all aspects of the electricity system – producing the power, transmitting it, selling it, and delivering it. Critics say the companies have much at stake in preserving that control.
Georgia – ‘Drag This Out as Long as Possible’: Former official faces rare criminal charges under open-records law
New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 7/8/2019
When he was mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed’s relationship with the news media was notoriously contentious. At one news conference, Reed responded to reporters’ requests for records by simultaneously releasing more than 1.4 million pages of documents on paper, stuffed into more than 400 boxes, some of them filled with blank sheets and minuscule spreadsheet printouts – a gesture interpreted by many in the local press corps as an act of nose-thumbing. His former press secretary, Jenna Garland, is now facing criminal charges for allegedly failing to comply with Georgia’s open records law. It is a rare predicament for an American government official, and the allegations will do little to allay investigative reporters’ worst suspicions about the spirit with which bureaucrats receive their nagging, but legal, records requests.
Massachusetts – New Disclosure System Creating Headaches for Lobbyists
Taunton Gazette – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/11/2019
Multiple lobbyists said that over the course of the past week they have tried to input their data to comply with Massachusetts’ disclosure law – including bills that they are lobbying on, expenditures for clients, and campaign contributions – only to be unable to save their work, have the system crash, or see their data erased. Penalties for late filings start at $50 a day for the first week and grow to $100 after July 20. While a larger firm may be able to absorb some fines, one person who works in the industry said they have seen the bills mount for smaller clients, including non-profits, who are less familiar with their responsibilities to report.
Mississippi – Mississippi Politician Blocks Female Reporter from Campaign Trip
MSN – Karen Zraik (New York Times) | Published: 7/10/2019
State Rep. Robert Foster, who is running for governor of Mississippi, blocked a female reporter from shadowing him on a campaign trip “to avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise” his marriage. Larrison Campbell of Mississippi Today said Foster’s campaign manager, Colton Robison, told her a male colleague would need to accompany her on a 15-hour campaign trip around the state. In blocking the reporter, Foster invoked the “Billy Graham rule,” which refers to the Christian evangelist’s refusal to spend time alone with any woman who was not his wife. The practice has drawn renewed attention in recent years, especially after the resurfacing of a 2002 comment by Vice President Mike Pence that he would not eat alone with any woman other than his wife.
Missouri – ‘Dream for Fans of Corruption’: Greitens Confide ruling vexes transparency advocates
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 7/9/2019
A Cole County judge ruled former Gov. Eric Greitens did not violate Missouri’s Sunshine Law when he and his government staff used a self-destructing text message app called Confide. Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem said because the text messages were automatically deleted, it meant they were never officially retained, and therefore were not covered by the law. There is no right for a private citizen to sue under the state’s record retention law, the judge said, so the lawsuit against the governor’s office that was filed in late 2017 could not move forward. “[Beetem’s decision] blows a giant hole in the Sunshine Law, and invites further deliberate, automatic destruction of records by public officials,” said Daxton Stewart, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University.
New York – Cuomo Signs a Bill to Allow Release of Trump’s State Tax Returns
New York Times – Jesse McKinley | Published: 7/8/2019
As the battle over President Trump’s federal taxes intensifies in Washington, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to allow congressional committees to access the president’s state tax returns. The bill requires state tax officials to release the president’s state returns for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose” on the request of the chairperson of one of three congressional committees. It is effective immediately, though it is unclear whether it would be challenged by the administration or used by the congressional committees. Still, the state tax documents from New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters, would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, tax experts say.
New York – Legendary ‘Three Stooges’ Were Briefly NY Campaign Donors
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/10/2019
Last year, a campaign account controlled by Nick Langworthy, the new chairperson of the New York State Republican Party, received nearly $13,000 in donations from “Moe Howard” and “Larry Howard,” and also made a $150 payment to “Curly Howard,” according to campaign finance records. A state GOP spokesperson said the Three Stooges’ listing in the campaign filings resulted from errors by the committee’s campaign treasurer, who had put the names in as “placeholders” for real, living peoples’ donations made through PayPal. The Stooges’ names were then accidentally left in place when reports were filed with the state Board of Elections.
North Dakota – North Dakota House Energy Committee Chairman Says Business Relationship with Lobbyist Unrelated to Legislative Work
Grand Forks Herald – John Hageman | Published: 7/8/2019
The chairperson of the North Dakota House’s energy committee defended a business relationship with the state’s top oil and gas lobbyist. Rep. Todd Porter and North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness are both listed in state records as partners in a commercial real estate investment group. Porter said the relationship does not affect his decision-making at the Capitol because the oil industry is unrelated to the property partnership, which he said includes 42 partners. He said he and Ness were friends “long before” he joined the Legislature in 1999.
Oklahoma – Stitt Outlaws State Agency Lobbyist Hiring with Executive Order
Tulsa World – Keaton Ross (The Oklahoman) | Published: 7/6/2019
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order that bars state agencies from hiring outside lobbyists as long as he remains in office. Stitt first addressed lobbying in state government in January, when he filed an executive order requiring all state agencies to submit a list of every lobbyist they hired and the terms of their contract. This order also prohibited agencies from entering into, or renewing, any contract with a lobbyist through the duration of Fiscal Year 2019. A total of 35 state agencies hired lobbyists last fiscal year. Some paid local public relations firms, while others consulted with individuals.
Oregon – Political Theater Overshadows Policy; Some Fear Oregon’s Drift Toward D.C. Politics
Salem Statesman-Journal – Connor Radnovich | Published: 7/3/2019
Bookended by concerns about safety in the Oregon Capitol and packed in the middle with partisan squabbling that exploded into a pair of Senate Republican walkouts, 2019 was one of the most contentious sessions in recent history. There is concern among legislative leaders it could get worse. Senate President Peter Courtney said lawmakers across the country are starting to mimic the “legislative anarchy” he sees in Congress, and without a functioning legislative branch, he fears over-powered executives. In February, the Legislature agreed to pay more than $1 million in damages after an investigation by the Bureau of Labor and Industries determined legislative leadership created a hostile workplace by allowing sexual harassment to continue unabated for years against lawmakers, interns, staff, and lobbyists.
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